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and for some time maintained, among the learned, an impression that the work of improvement was accomplished. The Lehrgebäude and Handwörterbuch being supposed to comprehend all the valuable matter of preceding writers, with very great improvements as to form, arrangement, and elucidation, were recognised as standards, and quoted as authority. So successful had the author been, in rendering attractive what was once forbidding, that it became fashionable to write grammars in the manner of Gesenius. Men of no mean name became his imitators. As in all similar cases, the faults of the original were aggravated, and its merits unattained. What strikes us first and strikes us most, in a well constructed book, is often the casual result of trifling circumstances in the composition. The author, in transferring to his reader his own full, clear, and comprehensive views of what he thoroughly understands, is led, perhaps by accident, to some specific forms of method and expression. These circumstantial matters, which the author would be very apt to alter, if he began again de novo, are seized upon by imitators, as the very elements which constitute the merit of their model, and, instead of being left to take their proper place upon the surface of the subject, are insisted on as if they were first principles, and thrust upon the reader with a provoking pertinacity. Some German writers, who avow themselves the imitators of Gesenius, in their zeal to ape his manner and to copy the externals of his plan, have unluckily forgotten to emulate his perspicuity and scrupulous correctness. We should not be surprized, if in the second edition of the Lehrgebäude, some things which its copyists have lauded as immense improvements and remarkable discoveries, should be wholly discarded as absurdities or errors.
Though Gesenius, by furnishing a masterly view of what was worth preserving in the later Jewish, and the earlier Christian writers, had conferred a valuable favour upon biblical philology, it by no means follows that he left no room for further effort. Not only were there in his own work chasms to be filled and dark points to be elucidated; there was yet another source of information to be opened and applied. The early Christian Hebraists, while they adopted the synthetical method of the junior Rabbins, superadded to it the incongruous forms of occidental terminology. The changes which Gesenius introduced, in this respect, were prompted rather by his taste than his philosophy. Grotesque and barbarous combinations he rejected; but he still showed a fondness for discovering analogies between the classical and oriental forms, and a disposition to apply the terms of European grammar, where he could without much straining. We are not disposed to charge upon this method all the consequences which have been imputed to it. We do think, however, that it tends to create mistaken notions, not so much of details, as of the genius of the language. The theory and technics of oriental grammar, as displayed in the writings of the Arabs and the Jews, are quite another thing. To complete the process of improvement then, there seemed to be wanting a full exhibition of the Oriental system, in its application to the Hebrew language. Some partial contributions to this purpose may be found in German periodical and occasional publications, though the first who undertook to form a grammar altogether on this principle was not a German, but an Englishman. To one acquainted with preceding writers, there is, doubtless, an appearance of extravagance in Lee's professed rejection of all classical analogies. This unfavourable aspect must, however, be attributed, in no small measure, to the contrary extreme, which had before been prevalent. Those who formed their first acquaintance with the Hebrew language in the school of Buxtorf, or even of Gesenius, are, no doubt, startled, when they hear that there are no modes, no cases, no infinitives, no vav conversive. But even allowing, as we safely may, that the bold and independent Englishman has actually pushed his favourite principles too far, that very excess may
be considered an advantage. What we want is to contrast the two systems, for the purpose of comparing them, and so combining them as to produce a third still nearer to perfection. The more detached we view them from each other, the more likely are we to attain our end. It must be admitted, that the first edition of Professor Lee's work* does exhibit marks of haste, and inattention to minute details. We conceive, however, that the object of the author was not to present a formal system, but a sketch or draft of one, in which the prominent features should appear in strong relief. The new edition which is in the press, if not already published, will probably present the same materials in a more elaborate and finished style.
A Grammar of the Hebrew language, comprised in a series of Lectures; compiled from the best authorities, and augmented with much original matter, drawn principally from Oriental sources. London, 1827.
By these two distinguished scholars, two important steps had now been taken in the art of constructing grammars. By the one, much valuable knowledge, which lay scattered through a multitude of books, was brought together, stripped of its inconvenient and uncouth habiliments, and laid before the reader in an accurate, symmetrical, and tasteful form, but without departing from the general analogy of European grammar. Lee took a step another way by discarding this analogy, and substituting that of the Oriental systems. By this change he has shed a satisfactory light on some dark points, and furnished a clew which, we trust, will eventually lead to new improvements. Without saying a word upon the general merits of Lee's system, as a system, which would here be out of place, we do not scruple to affirm, that he has simplified some complex matters without sacrificing any thing, and exposed more than one absurdity arising from the arbitrary use of technicalities.
To this masterly exhibition of the Oriental and the occidental theories, by men so fully versed in them, there was now to be added the original action of some acute and independent mind, able and willing to devest itself of trammels, and employ its native strength in doing for the new school of Hebrew grammar, what Storr did, in a measure, for the old. It might have been supposed, that this would be the work of many years, and various hands; that no writer would be bold enough to undertake a general recension and reform, or clever enough to execute his plan without the shame of utter failure. The fact, however, is, that almost simultaneously with Lee's appearance as a writer on the subject, this unpromising attempt was boldly made, by a very young man, and carried through with a measure of success which is really astonishing. Ewald of Gættingen, to whom we now refer, wrote his Hebrew grammar,* as he has since informed the world, with no other help than the diligent perusal of the Hebrew text, under the guidance of Gesenius's Lehrgebäude. His inordinate ambition to be independent, while it betrayed him into many strained and far-fetched variations from existing theories, compelled him to throw himself upon his own resources, and thus occasioned the display of a truly uncommon philological acuteness, perspicacity, and power of invention. One could scarcely have expected any novelty at all on
* Of which the work before us is an abridgment, or rather a condensation, with considerable improvements.
such a thread-bare subject; yet in Ewald's books an ingenious novelty occurs on every page. He deserves, however, higher praise than this. In scientific arrangement and the explanation of anomalies, he is perhaps unrivalled. Many facts which are faithfully and clearly stated singulatim by Gesenius, are exhibited by Ewald in a chain of philological relations, which at once removes the appearance of capriciousness from each, and helps the memory to retain them all. Were we writing merely for philologists, we might furnish very striking illustrations of this statement. As it is, we shall content ourselves with simply referring to his classification of the nouns, as an example of his talent for arrangement, and to his doctrine of the Vorton-Kamez, as an instance of his tact, in making a grammatical analogy at once subservient to his own hypotheses and to the learner's recollection.
Nothing, however, can be plainer to an impartial critic, than that this ingenious writer has been guilty of ridiculous excesses, in his straining after novelty. He seems, indeed, to have pursued the “rule of contraries,” and to have formed his own opinions, where he could without absurdity, by just reversing those of his immediate predecessor. A specimen and proof of this unreasonable rivalry is furnished by his anxious and ingenious efforts to discredit the threefold division of the vowels, which, though urged too much in one way, and too little in another, by Gesenius and his followers, is an arrangement historically true, as well as practically useful.
Another fault which Ewald has in common with a number of contemporary writers on the same or kindred subjects, is a disposition to make much of what they call the philosophy of the language, in a vague and abstract sense. Some of Ewald's expressions, upon this point, almost justify our giving him a place among the learned quacks of whom we spoke before, as undertaking to describe minutely the actual concoction of the elements of language. The only philosophy with which a writer of rudiments has to do, is that of correct knowledge and perspicuous explanation. If forms, apparently discordant and unlike, can, by means of a hypothesis, be so associated in the reader's mind, as to aid the recollection and explain each other, the hypothesis not only may, but ought to be, exhibited. But when this hypothesis is set forth in the light of an essential principle, involved in the actual formation of the language, the alleged philosophy de
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generates, at once, into a puerile abuse of terms. The former mode of explanation is employed, more or less, by every good grammarian. It is applied, with much taste and judgment, by Gesenius, and with still happier success by Lee and Ewald, in a multitude of instances. The latter, however, have occasionally passed the bound of this legitimate philosophy, and strayed into the mazes of a mongrel metaphysics, forgetting that the only test of value in a grammar is its adaptation to the wants of those who use it.
This disposition to provide for adepts, at the expense of learners, and to presuppose an elementary instruction which has no existence, is more remarkably the fault of German, than of any other, writers. It is partly the result of the reaction before spoken of, in favour of minute and accurate philology. The horror of plagiarism, which was thus engendered, introduced false principles of criticism. A new and unfair standard was established for measuring the worth of philological productions. They began to be estimated in proportion to the number of their novel illustrations and authorities, and the degree of variation, in their plan and execution, from all kindred works. In this way, men who wrote for fame, were tempted to lose sight of those grand essentials, truth and utility. Plain truth is common-place; or when discovered, soon becomes so. Plausible error is attractive from its novelty. The German literati soon forgot to ask themselves, cui bono? The great problem in authorship now seemed to be, how to form a plan as different as possible from all that went before it, and how to fill it up with fresh details from primary sources. Each new competitor for public notice found it necessary now to shut his eyes on antecedent labours, and if not to perform the process of discovery, collection, and arrangement, for himself, at least to persuade his readers of his having done so. The conceit that every searcher after truth must go about his task, as if nothing had been done, a notion pregnant with absurdity and mischief, was acknowledged as a maxim in the schools of Germany, and there it still prevails. Hence the anxious efforts made in prefaces and elsewhere, to convince the public of the author's zeal and independence. Hence the sedulousendeavour to provide examples, proofs, and illustrations, never used before. Hence, too, the manifest unwillingness to sacrifice a tittle of the matter thus provided, and the laborious skill with which the whole of it is wrought into text, notes, prolegomena,